It’s not that the War on Drugs creates criminals (other than as a marginal phenomenon). It’s that the War on Drugs puts the trade in the hands of criminals. If drugs were the root cause, college campuses would be filled with the same kinds of violent turf battles, gun fights, beheadings, etc. When was the last time anybody had to risk their life buying marijuana in a criminal ghetto?
The War on Drugs needs to be ended in order to deprive criminals of their funding. Criminals have very few sustainable talents outside of violence and intimidation. We’ve legalized gambling, enabled payday/pawn/title loans, and nobody’s getting kneecapped anymore. We’ve decriminalized alcohol and enacted sunshine laws for municipal government. (We also started handing out municipal contracts to “minorities” instead of guys whose last names end in vowels, but that’s another thread). What are all the guidos doing now? They’re on disability and telling their higher IQ offspring to go into real estate or outside sales, which is a hell of a lot better than beating up shopowners and hijacking trucks.
Steve's post has generated 169 comments so far but alas, no additional pageviews or comments on all the topics I find so intriguing here. Anyway, it's an impassioned discussion so I thought I'd list some of the points being made, pro and con.
1. Drug legalization is incompatible with the welfare state. Absolutely true. Get addicted and claw your way back through rehab on your own or your friends' or family's dime. Or die in the gutter; no amount of intervention in the world can keep nihilistic individuals afloat unless we are prepared to put them all in lockdown.
2. We don't have the same demographics we did when drug use was unregulated. The premise being that NAM hordes will lose all restraint. True, the demographics have changed, but drug prohibition is not keeping anybody who wants to use drugs from using drugs. Along the same lines, the prohibitionists fear that when drugs are legal, millions of people will abandon productive lives to become addicted zombies. I think it's a hobgoblin. People are already free to ruin their lives from alcohol use. Most don't.
3. The War on Drugs is actually a War on Thugs. This is a very good though purely utilitarian point. Sailer and others have done a good job pointing out that locking up violent young men for drug offenses has the salutary effect of keeping the mayhem off the streets where we really fear it and behind concrete prison walls where it belongs. Of course, this is an extruded and expensive process with loads of externalities that doesn't get at the root of a more serious problem.
4. Mentally unstable individuals should not use marijuana. Another good point. A correlation you don't see legalization advocates addressing is that a lot of violent people use marijuana.
5. There are drugs and there are drugs. I have used marijuana and psilocibe seleacanta (mushrooms) and enjoyed both. I have also had some bad experiences with marijuana. Never had the desire to use cocaine, heroin or any number of other drugs. Surely some objective research could be applied to get at the true cost-benefits and make some distinctions. Also, so far only one commenter has pointed out the huge amounts of legal, psychoactive Big Pharma drugs that Americans guzzle down (or are forcibly prescribed to adolescent males) with zero critical thinking.
UPDATE: Speaking of drug usage, Lance Armstrong got hammered hard for his use of illegal testosterone and doping to get a Tour de France title after battling cancer. Why isn't anybody asking whether we might want to try such regimens on cancer patients who aren't multi-millionaire cyclists?